Côte d'Ivoire: Adopt implementation decree for human rights defenders law


The development and adoption of a specific national law on the protection of human rights defenders in Côte d’Ivoire is a positive experience on which other African States can build, The law still needs to be accompanied by a decree, however, to ensure its full implementation.

(Banjul, The Gambia) - ‘Côte d’Ivoire’s adoption of the human rights defenders law is a public declaration by the Government that the work of defenders is important for the realisation of fundamental rights and freedoms,’ said Dr Banhouman André Kamate, Côte d'Ivoire's Government Human Rights Promotion Director, at ISHR’s side event on lessons learnt from the adoption of this law. 

The side event, held on  6 April was co-hosted by ISHR, the Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des droits humains (CIDDH) and the West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN). The objective of the panel was to share and discuss Côte d’Ivoire’s law on human rights defenders (HRDs) as a measure to protect HRDs. The Ivorian case was to be acknowledged as a start on which others can build, with the purpose of sharing strategies, learnings and opportunities so that other countries can follow.

The panel was composed of Ms Pedan Marthe Coulibaly, a human rights defender representing the Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CIDDH); Dr Banhouman Andre Kamate, Human Rights Promotion Director at Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Human Rights; Mr Diaby Bakary Sidick, a Commissioner from Côte d’Ivoire’s National Human Rights Commission; Ms Mélanie Kombate, coordinator of WAHRDN; and Mr Clément Voule, ISHR’s Africa Advocacy Director, who moderated the panel.

The Law on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights Defenders was adopted by the National Assembly of Côte d’Ivoire on 11 June 2014 and will strengthen the protection of human rights defenders. It is the first time an African State has enacted a law with the specific purpose of protecting human rights defenders and comes at a time when many other African States are developing laws and policies which restrict rather than enable their work.

Giving an overview of the law, Dr Kamate explained that it contains 19 articles with 3 chapters, namely: the definition of human rights defenders, rights and duties of human rights defenders and obligations of the State to protect defenders.

‘The Government wants to recognise the commitment of civil society in the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights as well as the vital role they play as a partner in sustaining democracy and rule of law,’ said Dr Kamate. ‘It is important for defenders to be given the freedom to conduct their work free of reprisals as stated in Article 3,’ he added. Article. 3 provides that 'human rights defenders can exercise freely their activities for the promotion, defense and protection of human rights and fundamental liberties across the entirety of their national territory.'

Representing Ivorian civil society, Ms Marthe Coulibaly shared the involvement of the civil society in the drafting of the law and emphasised its importance for defenders in Côte d’Ivoire.

‘CIDDH along with other civil society organisations submitted a draft and shadow HRD law and lobbied members of Parliament during the adoption process to make sure that our concerns are taken in account,’ said Ms Coulibaly. 

The law is currently being disseminated through different means at the national and regional levels with the support of ISHR and of the International Centre for Non-profit Law.  

'We call on the Government to accelerate the process of the adoption of the implemention of a decree to fully operationalise this law. Civil society submitted a draft in this regard earlier this year,’ added Ms Coulibaly.

'Recognising the importance of defenders, the National Human Rights Commission of Côte d’Ivoire has supported and worked with civil society in order to see that the human rights defenders law was adopted,’ said Mr Diaby Bakary Sidick. 

Reflecting on the West African region experience, Ms Melanie Kombate shared that Mali, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and Niger have begun the process or made it known that they are interested in developing and adopting similar protection laws in their countries.

Dr Kamate reassured participants that the adoption of the implementation decree is on the top of the agenda for the Côte d’Ivoire Ministry of Human Rights.  

In closing, Mr Clément Voule, thanked the panelists for their valuable contributions to the discussion and invited representatives from other countries to learn from Côte d’Ivoire's experience and other HRD protection laws that comply with the UN Declaration on HRDs and other subsequent resolutions at the UN and African Commission level. He also shared ISHR’s ongoing project on the development of a model law which will assist States in the development of national human rights defenders protection laws.

Contact: Mr Clément Voule, ISHR Africa Advocacy Director on c.voule@ishr.ch


  • Africa
  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • National HRDs laws/policies
  • Burkina Faso
  • Ivory Coast
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Sierra Leone